J. Frederick Tayler (1802-1889) was considered “the Landseer of watercolours” during his lifetime, according to Sally Mitchell, author of “The Dictionary of British Equestrian Artists.” She writes that “his work has a remarkable freedom combined with a great delicacy.” Indeed, that description would seem to perfectly fit this portrait of a stabled pony. Mitchell includes an example of one of his works in her dictionary.
Tayler was the son of a country gentleman and one of 17 children. His uncle was dean of Christ Church, Oxford, and the boy was educated at Eton College and Harrow School on his way to a life in the church. His artistic talents and his determination were enough to oppose his family’s wishes, however, and he went instead to Mr. Sass’s art school, at the time considered one of the best in London and a good preparation for entering the Royal Academy school.
After his Royal Academy studies, Tayler lived in Paris where he encountered famous artists such as Horace Vernet and Paul Delaroche. After some time he continued on to Florence and Rome. During this time he began a serious study of horse anatomy. After 4 years he returned to “spend time wandering through Scotland with knapsack and drawing pad,” according to Sally Mitchell.
Tayler became a full member of the Royal Watercolour Society in 1834 and during his career contributed about 500 drawings to its exhibitions. Decades later he became president of the Society. Among his patrons, according to Mary Ann Wingfield, author of “A Dictionary of Sporting Artists: 1650-1990,” was Queen Victoria. Wingfield calls Tayler's work “generally free and colourful.” Many of his best-known works were engraved. Examples of Tayler’s work can be found in many British museums, including the Victoria and Albert and the British Museums, as well as in several major city museums. There is an extensive listing on the artist in Benezit’s “Dictionnaire des Peintres…”
In this fabulous example, the artist displays his talent for capturing the personality and mood of his subject, the pony. The pony is somewhat familiarly back at the artist while standing fairly still in his stall as he is being painted. The somber browns, golds, creams and black with hints of grey help make this a more evocative and touching work of art. Some amount of light is flooding the stall, although it appears Tayler painted this purposely in the evening.
On the back is a label from Thos. Agnew & Sons Ltd., the pre-eminent fine arts gallery. The label notes that the firm was “By Appointment To His Late Majesty King George VI, Fine Art Publishers, Thos. Agnew & Sons Ltd., London, 43 Old Bond Street, Piccadily, W1X 4BA.” Attached above this label is a label from the company’s “100th Annual Exhibition of Watercolours & Drawings, January 15-February 16, 1973.” This provenance tells us that this painting was not only exhibited in the artist’s heyday, but also at the firm’s 100th year anniversary/annual exhibition. Given the artist’s skill, it is no wonder that the owners wished to share this painting at later dates. There also is a small typewritten label from Agnew and Sons that reads: “Frederick Tayler, 1802-1889” and beneath this another with the title and the painting’s numerical placement within the exhibition: “251, Piebald Pony in a Stable. 8-7/8 by 11-3/4 inches (25 by 29.4 cm).”
The watercolor is housed in an older style wooden frame, probably the one used in the 100th anniversary exhibition. There is a double mat to protect the painting from the glass.
The piece is in excellent condition. It has been very well cared for, and hence there are no issues to remark upon.
It measures 17-3/4 inches wide by 16-1/4 inches high, including the frame.
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“A Piebald Pony in a Stable,” Attrib. to Frederick Tayler, RWS
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